accountability process disaster
November 27, 2011 1 Comment
So…I’m really not liking how often the first response after I talk about my experiences is that my abuser “needs support”. How does that center the survivor? How does that break entrenched gender norms that dictate that I should be meek, forgiving, caretaking, not take up too much space and “heal” on demand? How does that disrupt the power dynamic in which this man -who turned out to be a serial abuser- used his age, gender, community connections (queer poc/radical desi circles) and phd-track credentials to to dehumanize and retraumatize me around sexual assault? This man was ten years older, made snarky comments about my aspirations and condescending comments about my style of speech and my lack of Ivy-League cred, and has had several pieces published on immigration policy issues – and they’re worried about “demonizing” this privilegefest, like it’s his humanity that was fundamentally attacked in all of this over the past several years and not mine. At the moment, he is trying to get my crew to feel sorry for him, give mushy support to him, and pay attention instead to the ways he is marginalized – his usual fallback pattern with women specifically.
I have been looking for NY-based community groups to contact and I have been adding on friends scattered around the country and abroad to cc on the email correspondences for the accountability process and to take part in the next conference call. Their role is be to serve as an extra pair of eyes and to have my back; to basically make the accountability process group is itself accountable. Yes, it’s a headache. This process is going badly, as they tend to do. They’re outsiders, so I don’t know how much clout they can have in this context. There are really not many people in NY I know; it was my isolation here to begin with that facilitated the abuse.
The crew got one of his male friends to be a “male ally” in the process. So the first time I spoke with this man to gauge where he’s at. But what happened was that this guy told me he “cares about [the abuser] deeply” and doesn’t want to “demonize” him. I found this offensive and problematic and it made me feel undervalued. This type of reaction is pretty endemic to accountability processes and to male friends of male perpetrators. So, this guy is refusing to apologize, and the rest of the crew has barely responded to this even though it’s been 3 days.
My concern is that we can’t even hold the “male ally” accountable; how
the heck are we supposed to hold the abuser accountable? I don’t think
they have the skills to mediate a conversation with someone who is
very savvy with manipulative language. I got a “I’m sorry you were
offended” pseudo-apology from the “male ally” and they seemed to think
this was enough. He followed this up by saying that he is stepping out
of the process and doesn’t think engaging with the concerns/criticisms
I raised will help. No apology for his phone comments.
I am familiar with other accountability processes, and that they tend
to go badly because of how much they can end up coddling perpetrators
for a number of reasons – because the perpetrator comes from a more
highly valued social position and is therefore fully human and more
relatable than the person who was harmed, or because being “mean” is
falsely equated with the prison system, etc.
I think there is a very gendered way that people respond to this
particular type of situation – call upon the woman to respond with
grace, compassion, forgiveness, and to”heal” on demand, not show
frustration, not take up space. Be ladylike. I find these expectations
completely outrageous. On the other hand, the perpetrator must be
handheld through the process; we must all fret about whether he’s
being “demonized”/”exiled”. Such melodramatic language when he’s
hardly showed remorse or made any real efforts, and it’s the first
concern some people have. It all just seems to solidify the
hierarchies in place.